I didn’t realize it at the time, but God allowed me to be broken for others…for seven years. At least it wasn’t forty years like Moses!
For fourteen years I filled prescriptions for people and while I could tell them side effects, interactions, instructions, etc., I could not understand the desperation they felt for these medications. Prescriptions for insomnia, pain, depression, and anxiety. And then of course the prescriptions to get OFF of those meds. Addiction. Desperation. I really didn’t think it could happen to me. But God allowed me to see things from a different perspective. From their shoes.
As I’ve said before, we stay so busy in our own shoes, we don’t think about what it might look like in somebody else’s.
As I’m joining in with Alene Snodgrass for Graffiti Summer, we are talking about being broken for others through the story of Moses. Just click on the link for a free download of the study, and be sure to check out amazon for her book she cowrote with a homeless man.
(I’ll have an interesting post coming up soon about homelessness that my daughter will have input in…be sure to watch for it!)
So this week for my post I’m cheating a little because I’m posting something I’ve already written, but I’m taking a little risk in that it’s an excerpt from my book that I haven’t really let anyone see yet or even talked about much. But just like Moses, it’s God’s story, not mine. So here ya go…part of my own story of being broken for others…
There are plenty of movies depicting addicts in withdrawal, but I’ve never seen what happened to me. Besides the sweating, shaking, headache, and ears ringing, I started throwing up constantly. Literally. When there was nothing in my stomach to come up, up came green bile. Between bringing me warm washcloths for my mouth and cold washcloths for my head, my mom and David were persistently trying to find the best way to get help.
It was not easy.
Research into medical intervention revealed rehab “resorts” hundreds of miles and tens-of-thousands of dollars away, but the local, affordable options were few. Even if I had $30,000 to spend, there was no way I could physically make the trip. After about three days, I could barely hold my head up to vomit, much less pack and get on an airplane. As I camped out on the bathroom floor with my pillow, blanket, and pile of washcloths, I could hear the hush-hush talk about what to do with me. The shame and utter despair I felt for putting my family through this was as unbearable as my state of health.
We finally found a local physician with an outpatient clinic for drug addiction that was not a methadone clinic. Methadone clinics sprung up in the ‘90s when heroin addiction was at its highest. Methadone is a cheap drug that helps with addiction to certain drugs, but the problem is, it’s just as addictive as anything else. The clinic we found dispensed Suboxone, a fairly new drug on the market I’d only dispensed a few times which is used solely for narcotic addiction. It is a short-term substitute for the narcotic—the Lortab in my case—and greatly reduces the effects of withdrawal, and allows the receptors in the brain to dwindle back down to normal.
We immediately called his office. Of course, it just happened to be Friday morning; they said I could not be seen until after the weekend. I honestly didn’t think I would live that long (although now I know just how much a body can endure). They could admit me to Carolina Behavioral Hospital where they’d give me fluids and medicine for nausea, and begin Suboxone treatment there. That news was music to my ringing ears.
Now you have to remember how I grew up—only child, Christian School, very sheltered. You know…in my ivory tower. I heard “hospital” and “fluids” and I imagined a nice sterile, private hospital room with a television and nurses coming to check on me every few hours and give me medicine. I think Mom and David expected the same.
As David pulled us up to the front door, I lay across the back seat of our suburban with my puke bucket in the floor, continually filling it. The nausea and vomiting was relentless, and there must have been a hammer constantly pounding my head. David went inside to see how to get checked in, and what seemed like days later, he returned with a nurse and a wheelchair. As they took me down hall after hall and through password required doors to the detox ward, I wanted to disappear. The pain and nausea combined with my shame and desperation took me to a place so low I could have just melted and become one with the floor. Though I wouldn’t have wanted that floor to be my final resting place.
My “hospital” expectations were not even close. As I sat in a wheelchair with my trusty bucket in my lap, David and Mom checked me in, and we proceeded to follow a nurse back to that area. My worst nightmare began to come true as I scanned my new environment. There was a common area with a small television and a few old sofas that looked like they’d been rescued off the street. The “hospital” room reminded me of the worst dorm room on a college campus. The other patients—men and women—were dressed like homeless people coming to a shelter for a warm meal.
As the nurse explained procedure, I could see my mom and David looking around the room in shock and fear at the thought of leaving me. After hearing a bit of conversation from a few of the male residents, they made the decision to take me home.
I was so desperate; I told them to leave me. I had to have some help and there was no other option.
Never had I seen my mom look so helpless. The thought of leaving her baby girl in such a place was more than she could bear. I’ve never asked because my heart couldn’t take it, but I’m sure her eyes were pouring tears as she drove home.
David has since shared with me that leaving me at there was one of only three times in his life he has sobbed from being heartbroken. No one expects or prepares for this type of heartbreak. When he left, he picked up the kids from his mom and took them to the beach. He needed some distance from the situation and the kids needed something to keep their minds occupied. They didn’t know the whole situation at the time, but they knew enough to know something was wrong, that I was very sick.
As a wife and mom, the words “burden” and “failure” don’t begin to describe how I felt. I had done damage to myself physically, but I had hurt my family emotionally and created injuries that would be much more difficult to heal. Scars that would last a lifetime.
Once I was left in the hands of the nurses, the process started. They went through every single pocket, page, bottle and seam of every item that came with me and left me with the bare minimum. No cosmetics, no liquids, no hairbrush, no razor, no earrings … the bare minimum. My environment was surreal. As I lay on the cardboard bed with the questionable blanket, throwing up in my puke bucket, which sat on the nasty blue carpet, I could not believe I actually told David to leave me. The promise of fluids and nursing care was empty. For twenty-four hours, I was left to throw up, unattended.
Other patients left and returned at the sound of the school bell for meals, group therapy, and smoking breaks. I ate nothing. Finally, a nurse came to get me for my appointment with the psychiatrist to begin my Suboxone treatment. He laid out a three-day plan to fix me.
Three days. Now that would be something.
Dr. Psychiatrist wrote orders to start me on the Suboxone and an injection of Phenergan for the nausea. The male nurse on duty proceeded to lead me to the lovely—and oh-so-sterile—plaid sofa to give me my injection. As he was preparing it, the school bell rang and he just sat back and looked at me.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “Aren’t you going to go out and smoke? Isn’t that what you people do?”
You people. Are you kidding me? “I’ve never once put a cigarette to my mouth and I have no intention of starting now.”
I was the only patient who did not go outside to smoke. As a matter of fact, most of the staff went with them. Mr. Nurse proceeded to give me the injection and go on his merry way. I remained in disbelief at the stereotypic category in which I was just dumped. I began to see a pattern, though, with most everyone there. When everyone walked back inside, one of the male patients plopped down on the sofa next to me and said, “So, what’s your drug of choice?”
Drug of choice?
I might as well have been staring at an alien. I was definitely in another world.
I definitely walked in some scary shoes. Shoes that gave me an entirely new perspective, which is what Graffiti summer is all about. We don’t realize how quickly our own situation can change, and we find ourselves where we never thought we’d be. Feel free to tweet that 🙂
Have you walked in any unexpected shoes that shifted your paradigm?